Let’s have a look to Tokyo’s pre-holiday social scene and cover a few of the major happenings here. I got to know Harumi (Hopey) Yamamoto at the Lex where she would drop by from time to time. The “one of a kind” lady who dresses chick flamboyant would arrive in her beige Rolls Royce and tell her driver she’d call him when she was ready to leave.
Hopey owns a chain of very successful gift shops that cater to those who want the best and can afford it. In addition, she has taken time – a lot of it – out to help others. In June of 1997, she established the LDH Club, an organization whose main goals include helping handicapped and less fortunate children.
Hopey’s LDH Club recently hosted a glittering evening in the Crystal Palace at the Akasaka Prince Hotel. The crowd, as expected, was an interesting mix of diplomats, socialites and familiar faces from the arts, fashion and entertainment worlds.
President Bill Clinton’s brother, Roger Clinton, was the special guest, and he’s a laid-back, outgoing guy wh really resembles this brother. Thanks to a couple of groupies who kept hauling people over to meet “their friend Roger,” he didn’t have time to relax or even eat. Sometimes people just don’t know when and where to stop.
Other very special people there included Oliver and Clara, the parents of Steve Haynes. Steve, involved in the LDH Club, along with many other worthwhile projects, flew them in from San Fan for the evening. He’s a good son and an exceptional human being.
Greg Irwin did a masterful job of emceeing the program. This included a presentation of the LDH set of illustrated books, Angel of Paradise. That feature LDH’s three representative characters, Lifey, Dreamiko and Hopey. They have been published in English, French and Japanese.
The cast of the stage play, “Friendship,” sang one of the songs from the production. The play deals with the life of a young leukemia victim and her friends who had all shaved their heads to make her feel less self-conscious.
All proceeds from the special evening were given to the Japan Bone Marrow Transplant Promotion Foundation. Our sincerest congratulations to Hopey, Roger Clinton and the many supporters of this truly worthwhile cause.
Our congratulations as well to Roger on his recent and very successful performance in North Korea. He’s a singer and band leader.
EVENTS IN TOKYO
Time for Tokyo again, but still very much on the travel scene. I had planned to spend a few hours checking out the four-day 12th Japan congress of International Travel and Trade Show at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel. JATA, as the show is best known, was so busy with interesting people and exhibits, I ended up spending a half-day or more at each of the four days of the show.
Started out at the coffee break hosted by Starwoods Hotels and Resorts and went to hear a speech on the current situation by dynamic Keio University Prof. Eisuke Sakakibara. After that, I did a lot of walking, checking out the exhibitions, seeing old friends and making new ones in the travel/ tourism businesses.
Nice seeing Aaron Medina of Hertz again, and he updated me on some of the top world car rentals, new locations and special programs. I drove a Herz all over Tunisia and the car, a Peugeot Europe, the location in all major cities and the service could not have been better.
I also enjoyed talking with Cathay Pacific’s Greg Hughes. I first met him and his dynamic Indonesian wife Reny at the Lex. Greg’s very busy, optimistic and feels Hong Kong, headquarters for Cathay, is really picking up.
TahiCheck it out yourself, but I recommend not going Feb. 5 and the two or three days following. That’s Chinese New Year, and it’s pretty much a family affair with major shopping areas closed and the better restaurants fully booked.
In the Italian hospitality suites, Enrico Maggi (he heads Enit here) introduced me to visiting representatives from some of the many tourist destinations in Bella Italia.
Continental Airlines kept busy promoting their long established flights to Micronesia and new flights to Mexico, Central and South America via Houston, Texas.
Also checked out all the new tourist facilities and developments in a few of the places I’ve visited but hope to see again. These include Vanuatu (called New Hebrides when I was there last). I made the jungle trek to the Pentecost Jump, a primitive first in bungee jumping.
One of the major events on JATA’s busy schedule was a huge lunch hosted by Tunisian Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts Slaheddine Maaoui and Tunisian Ambassador Sal ah Hannachi. More on this later.
There was also a special dinner party at the Hilton Tokyo, hosted by the Embassy of Egypt and the Egyptology and Tourism Promotion Office. More on that later as well.
You’ve probably heard Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has designated 2000 as “The Year of Egypt in Japan.” There will be all kinds of special events here and, of course, in fascinating Egypt throughout the year.
Guam had a huge, happy and busy booth at J A TA, and I got to know the large group of talented singers and dancers who came up for JA TA at the Lex where they partied nightly. Good people all. Congratulations to the organizers of, and participants in, JATA, an exciting and worthwhile event.
It’s mint tea this time as I write this, and I’m relaxing at the Broadway Piano Bar in the five-star Abou Nawas Hotel in Tunis. Thanks to Kuwaiti Ambassador Walid Ali AI-Khobaizi, formerly posted in Tunisia and a board member of the large and luxurious Abou Nawas Hotel resort chain, I’m staying in a corner suite.
Back to the Tokyo scene (back quite a while), Omani Ambassador Mohammed AI-Khusaiby and his staff hosted a people-packed reception at the New Otani. The occasion was to celebrate Oman’s National Day, and the ambassador and embassy staff were in traditional Omani clothing and looked great.
I enjoyed talking with Kaoru “Rose” Kanetaka who, as many of you know, had the top TV travel program here for 30 years. Rose keeps busy as president of the Yokohama Doll Museum and as a leader in various city and government projects.
The evening also gave me the opportunity to congratulate Djibouti Ambassador Rachad Farah. In addition to being Dean of the Arab Corps, he recently took over as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps. He’s a very international and extremely capable man.
World travelers Mitsuo and Lilo Maruyama tell me “Oman is a magical country to visit.” I’ve been just over the United Arab Emirates border to a hotel in Oman where they let you stay without a visa and got stopped another time when I drove the UAE Coastal Highway to the Omani border.
The border police were polite but, “no visa, no enter,” so I cut across to Dubai. Next time I’ll plan and prepare a little better. Meanwhile, congratulations to the Omani leader, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said and his people on this special occasion.
Meanwhile, a special thanks to Tunisian Ambassador Salah Hannachi. His letter of introduction opened a lot of new doors for me
My Austrian Airlines flight back to Tokyo Jan. 7 was like old home week. Asia and Lukas were on the flight again, as were Austrian Commercial Counsellor Wolfgang Penzia and his family, plus a couple of models from Hungary and Romania. As I so often say, the world gets smaller.
My first party of the year here in ol’ Edo had to be one of the best, if not the best of the New Year. I’ll be talking later about the Maruyamas’ luncheon cruise with some fine people.
Marc Hand!, younger son of Richard and Baby Hand!, is back in town. Marc was graduated from a hotel management school in Switzerland and from Cornell; he’s been working at the Hyatt Regency in Hong Kong. Here in Tokyo, he’s taken the position of food and beverage manager of the prestigious New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
I received a really nice note from Ambassador and Mrs. Shunji Yanai. The former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs has already been called “the best Japanese Ambassador ever” by people-in-the-know in Washington, D.C.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender.